Women's Pantry Program would provide free menstrual health products in Youngstown
The City of Youngstown Public Health Committee on Wednesday morning will meet to discuss a program that seeks to transform accessibility to women's health care products, the latest push to help the Valley's vulnerable urban female population.
Youngstown 5th Ward Councilwoman Lauren McNally and City Health Commissioner Erin Bishop are leading the charge to create the Women's Pantry Program, an action plan that would make menstrual items like pads and tampons available for free to women who need them.
"We want to make it so that these products are easily accessible for any woman in Youngstown," said Councilwoman McNally. "Or if we made this a mobile pantry, we could take them to the homeless or go up to the schools. Schools ask us to provide these resources all the time and we can't, but maybe soon we could provide them."
The Women's Pantry Program is in its early planning stages and the Public Health Committee meeting at Youngstown City Hall Wednesday will host more logistical discussions. The Youngstown City Health District is striving to make sure that women can get products somehow, someway.
"Right now we have pantries for food but not for women's products like pads, tampons and other hygiene items," said Ms. Bishop. "Especially because of the 'pink tax.' The clinic could be part of food pantry giveaways let's give hygiene products, even toothpaste."
The 'pink tax' was a tax on women's health care products that was repealed in Ohio in April 2020. But yet the cost of menstrual health still stands high.
A study published by the Public Library of Science in September 2021 and archived by the National Library of Science and Medicine projects that women spend between $600 and $1,600 on single-use menstrual pads every five years.
McNalley says that is a cost that nearly half of women in Youngstown cannot afford. Exactly 38.9% of Youngstown women live in poverty, according to research conducted by the Youngstown City Health District. Women are also 13% more likely to live in poverty than men in the city, the research shows.
"Women's health is not covered by SNAP or other welfare programs," said Councilwoman McNally. "Women who have babies do not have these products just for a week, but a month or months."
Councilwoman McNalley has spoken with leaders at the county and state levels to organize the Women's Pantry Program. She has received overwhelming support so far.
And in a move widely practiced in policy and government for its success, Councilwoman McNalley said that she looked at solutions to women's health care in nearby areas to give her guidance on how to operate the Women's Pantry Program in Youngstown. She decided that the Columbiana Women's Caucus had done a solid job helping other women of the Valley get health care products. Now she wants to provide those same resources for her city.
"There's no reason to reinvent the wheel here," said Councilwoman McNally. "We need to normalize women's healthcare products as just that, healthcare products."